Importance of Cancer Screening In the Asian-American Population
According to the US Census Bureau, Asian-Americans constitute 5.1% of the population in Illinois with the greatest concentration in the Chicagoland area, and the counties of Champaign and Maclean in central Illinois. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in all other ethnic groups, however cancer is the leading cause of death in the Asian-American population. What is unusual about Asian-American populations is that cancer from infectious origin occurs at a much higher rate compared to other populations. This includes liver cancer caused by hepatitis B, cervical cancer caused by human papilloma virus and stomach cancer caused by Helicobacter Pylori infection. Common cancers that occur in the Asian-American population include colorectal cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, breast cancer, uterine cancer, thyroid cancer, liver cancer, stomach cancer, cervical cancer, leukemia and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
The unique risk factors associated with the above-mentioned cancers include:
- a changing diet that is more westernized
- a sedentary lifestyle
- disproportionate rates of smoking in the Southeast Asian population
- lack of access to medical care, secondary to cultural barriers and socioeconomic conditions
- lower participation rates in breast self-examination and routine Pap smears
- a higher incidence of infection related cancers
In the Asian Indian and Pakistani male populations, the most common diagnosed cancers include prostate cancer, lung cancer, colon cancer, bladder cancer and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Whereas in the Asian Indian and Pakistani female populations, the most common cancers include breast cancer, colon cancer, uterine cancer, and ovarian cancer.
The most effective tools available to battle these cancers include screening, prevention and early detection. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obama Care, has extended coverage to populations that did not have healthcare coverage in the past. It also requires that all insurance companies provide comprehensive preventative services. The goals of these provisions within the healthcare law is to help reduce the rates of suffering and death associated with cancer across the affected population.
It is important for all patients to establish a long-term relationship with their primary care physician/pediatrician and gynecologist. It also goes without saying that patients should make an appointment to see their doctors at least on an annual basis. Most of the cancers in the Asian-American population can be easily screened with a blood test, routine physical, pap smear, colonoscopy and mammography. If a cancer is detected, your doctors can refer you to the necessary specialist to help manage your cancer. Also patients can access educational material regarding each one of the cancers at reputable websites like www.cdc.gov (Center for Disease Control), www.cancer.org (American Cancer Society) and www.aancart.org (The Asian-American Network for Cancer Awareness, Research and Training).
Seek out help for your health as soon as possible, but also serve as a healthcare advocate for your friends and family who may not have the necessary education or background to understand their healthcare needs. Take charge of your own health along with your friends and family, so that everyone can have a healthy and bright future.